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This month is the 110th anniversary of the dedication of The Manchester Fire Engine and Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1 fire hall. The dedication, Sept, 2, 1899, was the scene of a community celebration.  

The fire company is part of a storied history of Manchester, whose roots go back as far as the 1730s.  

The town originally came together for many of the same social, economic, and public safety considerations as most of the early towns and villages in Carroll County.  

However, Manchester is particularly steeped in history for its sense of community cooperation. Folklore has it that the history of Manchester may very well go back hundreds of years before the German and English settlers first appeared on the scene in the early 1700s.

According to research for the Historical Society of Carroll County by Mary Ann Ashcraft, “Manchester was strategically located at the intersection of two (Native American) trails which led from Patapsco to Conewago (Baltimore to Hanover) and from the Potomac River to the Susquehanna…

"Later, the north-south route, called the Conewago Road in earliest times, was laid out as a public road in the 1730s by Robert Owings… this was probably the first public road in present-day Carroll County and fur traders were likely the first white men to travel the route.”

Nancy Warner records in her book, "Carroll County: A History,” that land grants “in the Manchester area started in the 1730s with “Steven’s Hope,” 150 acres to Samuel Stevens on the intersection between the present Lineboro Road and the Hanover Pike, and “Rattlesnake Ridge,” 50 acres to Edwards Richards.”

Just think; we could’ve named Manchester Valley High School, “Rattlesnake High.”

Warner also notes that the “Richards Family would later intermarry with the founders of Westminster and Hampstead…”

After 1805, Manchester’s Main Street, which was first named “Castle Street,” was a toll turnpike, which later became known as “Hanover Pike.”  It was with these humble beginnings as a crossroads to points north and west; that spurred Manchester to flourish.  

Ashcraft reports that, “By the 1830s, stagecoaches offered regular service between Manchester and Baltimore. Taverns sprang up at convenient distances to house travelers and drivers and for the exchange of horses.”

According to the Manchester Fire Company’s Web site, the first mention of organizing a fire company in town came in 1885 “by a group of private citizens and businessmen…”

“The charter was certified and authorized on March 28, 1893, by the Honorable Charles B. Roberts, Chief Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of Maryland.  At this time, the company consisted of 32 members plus 6 honorary members, including the officers.

“Member names Cleve Myers, Hen Genzler, Billy Wilson, Bill Shearer, Dave Everhart, Billy Hoffman, Robert Brilhart, Bill Bergman, Harry Brilhart, Charles Miller, John Baker, Ernest Leese, Clyde Hoffman, Bill Rittase, John Masehimer, Jim Wagman, Jack Frankforter, John Keck, Ed Burgoon, Bud Brilhart, Gearge Hoffman, Cleve Stauffle…”

The Web site explains the “first firehouse that was used was the Manchester Academy Building which was being used as a high school building at the time. This building was located on York St. in front of the present Elementary School. In 1898, the Gardner Building which is the present site of the company, was purchased for $725.00. Repairs were made to the building at the cost of $350 and the new Fire Hall was dedicated on Sept. 2, 1899.”

According to an account written by Jay Graybeal for the Historical Society, an article about the dedication of the Firemen’s Hall appeared in the Sept. 9, 1899 issue of the defunct Democratic Advocate newspaper…

“At 1:30 p.m. all were assembled at the hall. At 2:30 Chief Marshal Nelson Warehime, with a corps of assistants, formed the procession on York street and paraded through the several streets of the town in the following order:

“Alesia Band; open platform spring wagon carrying 14 young misses dressed in white, carrying a banner bearing the inscription —‘ Oh don’t you see, we represent the age of the M.F.D.;’ carriage containing the speakers and master of ceremonies; Manchester truck and ladder, drawn by firemen; Manchester Engine, drawn by two horses; Manchester Band; Union Bridge Fire Company; Westminster Drum Corps; Westminster Jr. Fire Company No. 1, truck and ladders; Westminster Jr. Fire Company No. 2, truck and ladders; Westminster Fire Company; Westminster Reel…

“Next in order was the dedication exercises, in which the following program was observed, B. F. Crouse, of Westminster, in the capacity of master of ceremonies:

“Music by Alesia Band; prayer by Rev. S. M. Roeder, pastor of Trinity Reformed Church; singing, "America," by a select choir, Miss Ida Roeder presiding at the organ; dedication address by Chas. E. Fink, Esq., of the Westminster bar; music by the band; address by William H. A. Hamilton, Esq. of Hagerstown, ex-president of the Maryland State Firemen’s Association; music by the band; doxology by all; benediction by Rev. C. M. Eyster, pastor of Emanuel Lutheran Church. The exercises were interesting…”

Graybeal records in his research for the Historical Society: “In an ironic twist of fate, the Manchester firemen lost their hall to a June 21, 1921 fire. … The story was front-page news in the June 24th issue of the Democratic Advocate  and included a list of structures lost in the fire,” which included not only the fire hall; but to add insult to irony, “the office of the Dug Hill Fire Insurance Company… (and) the Manchester bank and store … and the public school were damaged…”

The  article listed in great detail the damage: “Headquarters of the Manchester Fire Engine and Hook and Ladder Company, the office of the Dug Hill Fire Insurance Company, seven residences, a garage, four barns, seven automobiles, one motorcycle, the outbuildings of three homes, a horse and three hogs were destroyed, and a large building occupied by the Manchester bank and store, one dwelling and the public school were damaged. Telephone communication with the town was cut off.”

In spite of hardships and setbacks, the dedicated volunteers of Manchester's Fire Engine and Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 have persevered and flourished to this day, and stand watch over the health safety and property of the greater Manchester area.

Next chance you get, why not stop by and thank them for their dedication and service.  They protect you night and day, 365 days out of the year.

When he's not putting out fires somewhere, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com or visit him at
www.westminstermarylandonline.net.


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